WASH challenges in Manila North Cemetery
In May 2018, I went to Manila, the Philippines, to research Menstrual Hygiene Management in resource-poor settings. One of the sites that I visited was Manila North Cemetery, the final resting place of the great and the good of Filipino society since the 1890s. Huge mausoleums span the tombs, each one striving to impress more than the last. The families of the rich employed people to be caretakers of the tombs and and some caretakers were given permission to live on site.
Now MNC is the residence of about 10000 people, who have found the house-like mausoleums suitable to live in. People have literally moved in, with cookers, tv's,and fridges. The tombs themselves have nice cloths put over them to act as dining room tables, or for many, they are the ideal size to act as a bed.
MNC lacks piped water and sewerage, because the people do not own the land and the government regards it as an illegal squat. It is therefore very difficult for girls and women to manage their menstruation. Its not easy to get privacy, and there is little water for washing (just what you can carry). They use traditional cloths (pasadors) for the absorbance of blood, which creates problems with laundry, or they use disposable 'napkins' which create problems of solid waste disposal. Disposable napkins also cost money. Many young girls told me they were the preferred option due to their reliability, but they might not have enough money to spend on them. They might buy them as a 'treat'. Girls inevitably missed school and limited their activities, choosing to stay close to home. One young girl mourned the loss of her childhood, as she could not go out and play with her friends. Everybody asked what they wanted most, and they all said 'a private bathroom'. Some told me that they would leave the cemetery to go to a mall to use the bathroom, but it was too far to go everytime.
We are supporting a Non-government Organisation called Kapatiran -Kaunlaran Foundation, who provide educational scholarships to children who live in Manila North Cemetery, and who also provide an Alternative Learning System for those children who are out-of-school.